Once again, Sesame Street is keeping it real.
In new online videos, the hit children's show tackles yet another sensitive topic that has sadly become a harsh reality for a growing number of kids in the United States: Dealing with a parent or guardian who is battling substance addiction.
Earlier this year, Sesame Street introduced a green muppet with yellow hair named Karli, a friend of Elmo's who lives with "for-now parents" in foster care. In September, it was revealed that Karli's birth mother is an addict. In new videos released on Wednesday, Karli opens up about her mom's illness and recovery with her friends, and also explains how she herself has been coping with it.
In one clip, she explains to Elmo how her mother has been attending group therapy.
"They talk about grown-up problems," she sys. "She goes every day so that she stays healthy. You see, well, my mom needs help learning to take better care of herself so she talks to people with the same problem."
"I go to a special kids only meeting," she adds. "Our parents all have the same problem. We sit in a circle and at the end, we hold hands and we sing."
In another clip, Karli appears Salia Woodbury, a 10-year-old girl from California whose parents are both recovering addicts.
"My mom was having a hard time with addiction and I felt like my family was the one going through it," Karli says. "But now I've met so many other kids like us, Salia. Makes me feel like we're not alone."
"Right, we're not alone," Salia says. "And it's OK to open up to people about our feelings."
In another clip, Karli tells Elmo that she used to blame herself for her mother's addiction.
"I used to feel like a lot of things were my fault, especially my mom's problem," she says. "But she told me no, it was a grown-up problem. It wasn't because of anything I did and she said that she loves me no matter what."
In a third clip, Karli tells Elmo's BFF Abby Cadabby that her mother was "away for a while" because she had a "grown-up problem."
"I'm proud of her and she's proud of me and I'm so happy she's back," she says. "And she's taking good care of herself.
Karli then sings a song she made up about her mom.
Karli's mother's battle with addiction was revealed in a clip posted last month on sesamestreetincommunities.org.
"Um, Elmo knows that Karli's mommy went away for a while," Elmo asks his dad. "How come Karli's mommy had to go away?"
"Oh well, son, uh, Karli's mommy has a kind of sickness and she had to get some help," his father replies. "Karli's mommy has a disease called addiction. Addiction makes people feel like they need a grown-up drink called alcohol or another kind of drug to feel OK. That can make a person act strange in ways they can't control."
"In the United States, there are 5.7 million children under age 11, or one in eight children, living in households with a parent who has a substance abuse disorder," Sesame Workshop said in a statement. "One in three of these children will enter foster care due to parental addiction, a number that has grown by more than 50% in the past decade."
"Addiction is often seen as a 'grown-up' issue, but it impacts children in ways that aren't always visible. Having a parent battling addiction can be one of the most isolating and stressful situations young children and their families face," added Sherrie Westin, President of Social Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop. "Sesame Street has always been a source of comfort to children during the toughest of times, and our new resources are designed to break down the stigma of parental addiction and help families build hope for the future."
Sesame Street has long been a trailblazer in tackling difficult, real-life issues that affect kids. The Sesame Street in Communities initiative has released videos about topics such as incarceration, family caregiving, and community violence.
In 2002, the African version of the series introduced Kami, the first HIV-positive Muppet. In 2011, the U.S. Sesame Street introduced the muppet Lily in an episode about hunger. In 2018, it was revealed that she is homeless.. In 2015, the show introduced its first autistic character, the muppet Julia, who is part of the regular TV cast.